Studio 2 – Week 12

Almost at the end of the trimester & it is time to reflect.

This trimester has been one of the most challenging but also exciting & fun filled for me personally. A few highlights were:

  1. Research: Since I wanted to do something that I had not attempted before, I did a little research. Initially I kept in mind that it should be simple enough for me to make successfully as the workflow was quite unknown. Some of the designs I came up with were:

 

After discussions with my mentor we narrowed down on the below.

Untitled_Artwork

 

The thought behind the character’s costume was to keep it so that I could show off some of the anatomy as that was another thing I wanted to focus on. For posing it was going to be a dynamic pose but trying to keep all limbs as apart as possible just so we dont face problems while printing etc.

Untitled_Artwork (2)

As part of my research I have been following Weta worshop & trying to read up how they manage to make it into such a success. Jon Troy nickel, is another artist I follow who has been a part of Weta workshop & has worked on projects such as WOW. He has a twitch channel where he live streams his work & his WIP videos. That has been a great eye opener & helped me in my process.

 

  1. Solo Project: Although I was warned of the pitfalls of taking on a solo project, I have been very happy with my decision. I did have to play all roles & some aspects of the workflow such as pre-production & post-processing are not my areas of strength & I did have difficulties managing on my own, I did not regret my decision. I am aware that everyone has their areas of strengths & that is why a team that comes together with complimentary skill sets can be a big advantage, I feel that in my case of working in a college project environment, I work better solo as my goals & objectives from a project are very different from what the general group of students have. I could do with more collaborations in these areas but since I do have all umbrella outcomes to fulfil I need to do these myself. However, in a real world scenario I would collaborate with people for these aspects.

 

  1. Workflow: I will definitely keep in mind about starting base meshes either in 3Ds Max or definitely keeping retopology as a part of the workflow so that I can plan for them. When I started this trimester, my focus was completely on getting the product successfully done in terms of 3D printing. This was complete unknown territory. This was also the 1st time I was working with ZBrush & definitely had never moved meshes between the 2 softwares. Hence, I didn’t preempt the issues with high polygons, normals, unwrapping & rendering at all. Although I had kept buffers in my project plan, which is what saved me in the end, next time I will work these aspects into the plan.

 

  1. Personal Learning Curve: This has by far been the highlight of the whole project. The learning curve has been tremendous & I am most happy about that. Of course there are always tons of stuff that one still needs to learn, but the amount I have achieved this time has been great. Some of the learnings helped me break into the freelance market & that helped boost my confidence multifold.

 

Overall, this trimester has been just perfect, with all it’s learnings & achievements. I look forward to the next one now.

 

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Studio 2 – Week 11

This was a hectic week. Last week & a lot to cram in. I finished the model finally and am super excited on how she has turned out. I managed to complete the base & all the weathering etc to smaller things. I also took a decision to add real cloth, feathers & leather trimmings. Fixing her onto the base was tricky given I didn’t have too much surface area of contact points. However, have managed though she is slightly precarious. Overall I am happy with the way things turned out. I am not putting a picture in as i want to leave this as a surprise unveil.

Renders were also done & collected. Post processing was done though again I am not very happy with the results. This seems to be another area I am weak at. Also realized my ZDepth settings were not done properly so lacking that aspect in the final video.

I spent a considerable time preparing my making of video. This was something I personally wanted to do as I wanted to be able to put this up on my site. I liked the way this turned out & all the days when having the camera in my way while working was annoying, paid off.

 

The acrylic case for the model is ready & I am all set for the showcase next week. Taking this weekend off as I feel I deserve a break.

Studio 2 – Week 10

This week started with a restful longish weekend. I also had a few Freelance projects to complete with very short timelines.

One of them particularly was interesting. A notable chain of clinics in Abu Dhabi wanted to do something different for their internal awards this year. They wanted to try 3D printed awards rather than the regular glass etched with their names. So I ended up giving them some design idea sketches.

 

Based on the above they chose one. I created a basic 3d Model for the same & gave them a rendered picture to give them an idea of what it would look like.

 

We won the order on the basis of the above render. Now I had to design icons for each category of the award (13 categories) & model each of those along with the base model. I also made the artwork for the UV Printing ready in Illustrator. Once the pieces were 3D printed, I airbrush painted all the pieces & assembled them.

The assembly part of this was tedious since it involved very small pieces & needed a lot of precision, but overall I enjoyed it thoroughly.

On the winona project front, I managed to complete the base painting. I did the skin tones & then after masking (which took forever given the complexity of the model) I did the clothes & boots etc.

The renders are going fine & should be done soon.

Studio 2 – Week 9

To pick up from where I left last week, my success with trying to resolve the normal issues wasn’t very great. There are still some normals that are not working right but I will just have to move forward now & let them be as time is of essence. I need to get them into the render farm so that they can be rendered out in time.

The unwrapping plugin in zbrush is very convenient but I must admit, not very good as I have now learnt the hard way. Another learning: I should definitely factor in retopologising all meshes as a mandatory part of the workflow. This will definitely help with the normals issue along with making the unwrapping process easier & much cleaner.

I got 3 shots done as part of my demo reel & had to clean up the scenes as otherwise it was just too heavy. Apart from the base body mesh all other subtools were made into low poly & normal maps were applied.

The effect I achieved with mental ray lighting wasn’t par excellence & this is something I will have to take up as my personal learning. A rendering software is a must. I am however considering VRay due to it’s agility & shorter render time.

I was able to get my scenes into the render farm but now fingers remain crossed that they happen in time.

The time, effort & patience that was needed for this stage of getting things working in 3Ds Max has left me drained & severely stressed. As a result I need to take a 2 day break from all of this as I feel completely burnt out.

So I took some time off towards the end of the week to re-energize myself to be able to get back into the game with a bang again.

Studio 2 – Week 8

There is not much to update this week. This term we learnt about mental ray rendering & I wanted to be able to render out my demo reel for Winona in it. Love the realism one can achieve with mental ray rendering if done right. However, I must add here that I find it a little too technical for my artistic sensibilities & hence my mental block for anything technical seems to kick in just at the thought of doing it. I seem to find it a little difficult to tweak & play around with so many parameters to get just the right look. The effort required seems massive at this point.

I am aware that displaying my work well in an aesthetically pleasing manner is an integral part of being a good artist. Knowing & acknowledging this fact, makes me even more aware of how much I need to get this right. Thus, when I started encountering errors while rendering the frustration levels were high. The models when imported into 3Ds Max, gave me plenty of errors in terms of normals not being aligned, the polygons being flipped, some polygons intersecting each other & of course the density of the mesh making things an issue. Certain things that I was not even consciously aware of & taking care of in ZBrush, became painful realities that I had to face. Making sure textures translate well from what was imagined & textured in zbrush polypaint into 3Ds Max etc has taken up most of my time this week. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am towards the tail end of this process but one can never say until it is done.

However, I have had some very valuable learnings from this experience. Maybe in future I should consider making a basic base mesh in 3Ds Max & then taking it into Zbrush, if I plan to get the model back into Max. This way a lot of these issues can be avoided. Also, if the basic low poly mesh of the silhouette is made in max, using Dynamesh can be avoided to a large extent, hence keeping the mesh clean & low poly for a majority portion of the process. I am not sure if the normals, polygon faces etc still get messed up while moving them between the 2 softwares if I follow this workflow, but only trying it out can let me know.

I need to work a lot more with mental ray lights & materials to get a good grip on it, but maybe I should overcome my fears & mental block & do a deeper dive into it in future.

For now keeping my head low, whispering a small prayer that this works & carrying on so I can move to the actual physical painting of the model which is now desperately needing focus & attention.

Studio 2 – week 7

Cant believe we are already at the half way point. I finally got my printed model. It looks great & am super excited to get to the next stages of bringing it further to life. However, since my professor will be travelling in a week’s time, I decided to change my plan a little & finish up the digital work of transferring Winona from Zbrush to 3Ds Max & create my demo reel. And lo behold, everything seems to have fallen apart. Although I created all the low meshes, normal maps from them, UV unwrapped them & then digitally textured them, 3Ds Max decided not to take a liking to her. It has been throwing up tons of errors regarding normal, not lighting up my scene appropriately, not letting textures react in the appropriate manner etc. I Have really struggled this week trying to get this mammoth of a software (3Ds Max) under control & I seem to be losing the battle so far. I am giving it just a few more days until I move to plan b of rendering out my turntables in keyshot. Keeping fingers crossed & hoping for the best.

 

This week I thought I would jot down a few things on anatomy. Anatomy is something I have forever run away from as an artist as it would intimidate me. The complexity of the human body keeps me in awe as well as scares me at the same time. Thanks to my introduction to Zbrush, I have been trying stare my nemesis in the face for the past few months & I am beginning to fall in love this subject now.

 

I have been studying the bean drawing techniques for the torso, or understanding the curves of the spine etc. Given that my interest lies in 3D sculpting, the ecorche technique is what helped me the most.

Ecorche is when a human or animal figure is painted, drawn or sculpted without the skin, exposing the underlying muscles & tissues. It helps to show the location & interplay of the muscles. It was around the 15th century that artists started to concern themselves with the accurate representation of the body & it’s functioning. They sometimes performed dissections on cadavers to determine the position & function of anatomical structures. These became an essential part of most artist’s studio equipment. Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings are one of the most well known in this.

I found that approaching my model this trimester, specially when I started to repose her, with this technique was what helped. To keep in mind the various muscles & then the principles of how they function be it stretch or quash or rotate, helped get the form accurately in place. Just by putting the landmark points of a figure in place is not normally enough. The only way to get the silhouette working is to be able to imagine the functioning of the muscle & get those in place too. Once this is done, the top layer of the skin is easy to get & slowly the final outcome comes to life.

 

The ecorche technique has managed to catch my attention making me want to explore this technique even more. I think I can see myself doing some more study ecorche sculptures in future.

References:

The Art of Dissection. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from http://www.thepittpulse.org/the-art-of-dissection/

McMahon, M., & Wallace, O. (2017, November 02). What is Ecorche? Retrieved November 11, 2017, from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-ecorche.htm

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2016, March 16). Écorché. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/art/ecorche

 

Studio 2 – Week 6

The past week has seen a lot of ups & downs. Negotiations with the printer I had finalized fell through & I had to go scurrying around looking for a new printer. I was lucky to find another with some help from people at such a short notice.

However, they are located about 60kms from where I am & I had to make a trip down to sit & finalize stuff with them. We did a tiny test print of the head & my nightmarish suspicions came true. The feathers on the head were too thin & although they did print, some of them broke during the post process of cleaning & curing. Clearly this wasn’t going to work & so I had to redesign my headgear to be more in line with what the printer could handle rather than how I would’ve liked them.

I also had to break up my model into 6 pieces vs the original printing it in just one piece. This had me learn how to cut up the models & put in keys which is great since I did want to learn that & I’m hoping it’ll make the painting process easier. So the model looks like the below broken up with some keys built in.

 

My husband, Pallav, also did a great job building me an airbrush painting booth so I’m ready with my next stage of production once the model is back from the printers. I also have my airbrush, the compressor & my paint mixing bottles all set to be filled with colours & get started. Can’t wait though I must admit I do have a few butterflies in my stomach just at the thought of it 🙂

Studio 2 – Week 5

This week was all about adding the final touches & finalizing the model. I had to face one more of my fears & wade through the unknown in terms of Drapery. I managed to get my hands on a book “Dynamic Wrinkles & Drapery” by Burne Hogarth.

This book is very easy to read & understand. It explains all the aspects of why & how drapery works & various ways to approach them. There are tons & tons of illustrations which makes understanding the concepts much easier.

In a nutshell some of the salient points were:

  1. The body doesn’t produce unlimited movements as can be sometimes thought, but in fact it’s 4 fundamental types of movements : extending, bending, twisting & rotating.
  2. When these 4 basic movements act on our clothing, which have their own weight, texture, along with natural external forces such as weather, gravity etc, it produces wrinkles & folds. These wrinkles are an expressive indication of the forces of action.
  3. Wrinkles are always generated from an anchor point. These are essentially the points where the tension is the greatest as the clothing clings onto the body at these points.
  4. Anchor points are normally found in seams or tight spots such as the armpits, the collar, the inner elbow, waist, knees etc.
  5. Anchor points work in the same fashion where facial wrinkles are concerned. Eg: a smile causes lift of the mouth corners & an apple-shaped compression of the upper cheek muscle.
  6. There are various wrinkle pattern systems, but they can be largely categorized into one of the bellow:
  • Thrust wrinkles, are the most common types of wrinkles seen & are formed when the clothing has direct thrusts generated such as walking, stretching etc. When arms & legs extend outward from the anchor points, the thrust creates wrinkles along the line of force called thrust wrinkles.

Thrust wrinkles

  • Bend wrinkles, are a type of direct thrust wrinkle & are formed when arms & legs are bent along the elbows & knees.

Bend Wrinkles

  • Crossing Wrinkles, are one of the most complex & subtle wrinkle pattern systems. These are normally formed on loose materials on active body forms. The intersection of two competing wrinkle patterns that meet while travelling in opposite directions causes this form of wrinkles.

Crossing Wrinkles

  • Compression Wrinkles, are very similar to crossing wrinkles in terms of the forces generating them emanate from 2 different directions, these wrinkles also form zig- zag patterns & these wrinkles have both big & small wrinkles inter-laced. The point of difference is the origin of this wrinkle pattern system is due to the crush force applied. Since the crush force is the reason behind this system, the wrinkle patterns formed are contracting & inwards towards the source, unlike the crossing wrinkles which are outward & extensions.

Compression wrinkles

  • Fragmentation Wrinkles, is a complex system of patterns. They occur the action is uncertain, indecisive or inconsistent. This leads to the decay of other wrinkle systems giving rise to the fragmentation wrinkle system. This system also sometimes arises out of impurities in the fabric due to its prolonged wear leading to accumulation of dirt, sweat, grime, etc. Hence, the regular kinetic forces work in a fractured manner.

Fragmentation Wrinkles

  • Swag & Hanging wrinkles, are very commonly seen on stationary forms by the force of gravity. It is made up of curved organ-pipe folds curved upwards & sagging downward due to the force of gravity held up by 2 point suspension anchors.

Swah & Hanging wrinkles

  • Trap & Closure wrinkles, are a system of patterns that are created when an opposing action traps another wrinkle system from completing it’s action.

Trap & Closure wrinkles

  • Flying wrinkles, are one of the most interesting pattern systems. They convey the forces in action. They can convey the wind forces in the forms of the weaves formed. They can convey if a material is light or dense based on the extent of the effects of the forces etc.

Flying wrinkles

  • Passive, inert & lying wrinkles, usually occur on clothes on a horizontal surface with the force of gravity primarily acting on them. If the supporting surface changes, the wrinkle system will show the effect of the changes.

Swah & Hanging wrinkles

References:

Dynamic wrinkles & drapery, Hogarth, B. (n.d.).

Studio 2 – Week4

This week of production hasn’t been very significant to write about except for the fact that it was just modelling, modelling & more modelling all the way. The new Gizmo in ZBrush ZR8 has been a life saver.

This week we had a movie screening for “Appleseed”. The movie was my first anime experience & though this isn’t my preferred genre of movie watching, it grew on me as we went along. The story had a few plot points making things interesting. The real reason to screen the movie was so we could experience the technique of “Cel / Toon Shaders” that was used. This was new to me & on further reading up about it, very interesting.

The Cel shading technique is a 3D technique based on a specific shading methos that helps recreate the look of traditional 2D animation. It’s an artistic style that uses flat colours to texture 3D objects in an unrealistic, stylized 2D effect.

images (1)

It gets it’s name Cel from “Celluloid”, which are the clear sheets of acetate, which are painted on for use in traditional 2D animations.

This technique is extensively used in the video game industry like in the legend of Zelda, Okami, MadWorld, Prince of Persia etc.  Some of the famous movies/series like The Simpsons, Futurama, The Family Guy etc are essentially 2D series where some elements like cares, machines, non-organic objects have been seamlessly integrated using this style.

Appleseed is one of the movies that was created entirely using this style. Though they have used cel shading, it doesn’t look completely 2d, resulting in a very unique blend of 2D & 3D.

appleseed2004elcomienzoeg4

How does Cel Shading work?

Cel Shading is not as technically complex as other techniques, but requires some aspects to be included during production.

  1. Shading:

This effect is generated from an object’s normal. Each normal has it’s own angle, which is determined between it’s direction & the direction of the light point. Which both normal & the light direct matches, it results in a light tone & as the angle grows between the mismatch of the normal & the light, it grows darker. Keeping in line with the style, the tones are flat & change without a gradual gradient. Depending on the style the number of tones can be increased or decreased.

Toon-shader

 

  1. Outlines:

To achieve the cartoony style, cel shading sometimes includes black outlines, simulating drawing strokes, which are generated using techniques such as “Edge-detection” or “Back-face Cull”.

  • Edge-Detection – Edge-detection is based on algorithms that detects changes of contrast, brightness and sharpness, determining where are the points that form object edges inside an image. The technique is a post process so is not limited to 3D. It’s not the most used technique for outline 3D contents.

Canny_Edge_Detection

  • Back-face Culling – The original use of back-face cull is to hide the elements not visible to the camera / viewer so they don’t appear in the final render. This fundamental has been reversed to help create the black outlines. Here the hidden elements are shown to the camera. To create a thicker line, the vertices are reproduced & translated several times. Then the coloured image is overlapped over this to calculate which are the faces that stay in front, achieving these black outline effect with the hidden back faces.

Celshading_teapot_large

  1. Texturing:

Texturing to achieve cartoon or pictorial style is based on using textures specifically created with this purpose. Including black lines in textures or painting them in a traditional way with brushes and visible strokes. Programs such as Cinema 4D have shaders like art shader to help with this specific style.

Texturing

Cel Shading is not a very widely used technique & although it looks quite simple, I am sure that to achieve a great result it must be hard. Realistic shading is easier given the gradual gradation in tones helps hide a lot of flaws.

References:

Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation? (2012, September 18). Retrieved October 22, 2017, from http://www.animatormag.com/computer/cel-shading-hero-animation/

Bill Desowitz. (2009) Animation World Network. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from http://www.awn.com/articles/2d/scott-johnston-talks-iron-giant- 10th-anniversary/. Internet source produced by Journalist Bill Desowitz.

Studio 2 – Week 3

Week 3 into the project was a week filled with frustrations which also means a steep learning curve. I began the week trying to repose my character & this is when everything began to get complicated.

I tried doing it using the masking & transpose tool. This ended up distorting the model beyond repair. Next I tried to create a rig for the character using Zspheres. But since the mesh was highly dense, the lagging on my laptop made it nearly impossible to work with. I then went back to the original method of using masking & transpose on lower subdivision levels & even though the model got distorted I began redoing those portions. But since my knowledge on anatomy is not very vast & I was unable to visualize the stretch & squashes happening it was proving difficult to rectify. Not getting very good references to my exact pose was an added disadvantage. Trying to pose into an extreme dynamic position was not helping either & the fact that by now I had tried & abandoned this process 2 times already & a good 3 days of work was down the drain, pressure was beginning to build. Finally my professor showed me his workflow & I realized posing is a patient task. It needs to be done step by step with small changes at a time, rectifying the distortions before moving ahead. I was making all the changes before beginning to fix it. I finally took a deep breath & began all over again.

This time I followed my professor’s technique along with using muscle anatomy reference of just those small portions & making small squash & stretch changes as I went along. Finally the model is coming along much better & I am hopeful & keeping my fingers crossed this time around.

Since I was going through this process of learning to keep patience & attention to detail, I looked up on Weta workshops, my aspirational dream company to be able to work with someday, on what makes them so special & this is what I came up with.

  1. Weta Workshop provides the design, fabrication and on set operation of Miniatures, Armour, Weapons, Props, Prosthetics, Creatures, Costumes, Special Make-up and Suit effects to the screen industry. It is comprised of a group of artists united in their love of art and film. The workshop is unique because of its great variety of disciplines – from armourers to leatherworkers, skilled prosthetic technicians, miniature makers, painters to wigmakers, casting and moulding experts, articulation engineers and swordsmiths (Weta Workshop, 2002)
  2. They believe it attention to detail. This is such an ingrained important part of who they are & also one of the key reasons for their success. For example, the costumes that were created for Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) series, actually have inscriptions in Elvish on the inside even though it would never be seen on camera. These small but very important details helped the workers, actors & also the viewers believe the Middle-earth actually existed & was alive.
  3. For LOTR, they ended up creating 1200 suits of hand-made armour, more than 2,000 rubber and safety weapons, more than 100 special, hand-made weapons, more than 10,000 body and facial prosthetics and more than 1,600 pairs of prosthetic feet and ears, individually sized and shaped, all handmade by artisans. And to make them as real as possible, amongst other things they created them using methods that would’ve actually existed in the 14th  Century.
  4. Traditional methods were used to enhance the current digital & newer technology. This is one of the unique aspects of Weta. Weta Digital provides multidisciplinary expertise in conceptualization, creation and technical know-how. They provide compositing, blue screen and background plates, miniature stop motion footage, motion control sequencing, 35mm film scanning, recording and screenings, full design maquette and 3D scanning services. But on the other hand they also have artists creating Wigs & bodysuits etc by hande. For example they had ten people working for three and a half years just making wigs, that’s one hair at a time, 10 thousand hairs per head, three and half weeks per wig. The management of this aspect alone, just the logistical problem of bring the yak hair here from America is an issue in its own right and that’s one requiring huge amounts of negotiation and is one tiny little element. 2000 Hobbit feet were made for 4 Hobbits, 10,000 prosthetics for the orcs, and 2000 full bodysuits.
  5. Weta’s multi-dimentionality is also something that sets them apart. Their primary disciplines include the design, make-up and prosthetic effects, armour and weaponry, miniatures of all scales, and creatures, which includes all suit and animatronic work as well as scannable maquettes which are becoming increasingly required nowadays as computers are evolving to play such an important role in the effects industry. Then on top of all that, they cover the range of prop effects, physical effects gags, rigging, and gore or injury rigs, and so on and so forth. This gives them the edge of being able to service almost an end to end production line.
  6. Richard Taylor, the founder of Weta, is also a big contributor to the success of Weta. He is known to be very charismatic & a great Leader. People are devoted to him & this is what shows in their work (Walsh and Jackson, 2002). Taylor himself says that ‘we are only as good as the environment in which we work in and the people in which we hire’ (Campbell-Hunt and Finlay, 2002). To create a 500 year old Middle earth set with such care & attention to detail, started with Taylor first understanding himself as a passionate and dedicated artist and technician, and then seeking similar qualities in those around him: ‘a big thing is that you originally hire young and enthusiastic people like yourself. What we find in the people around us is that they have one rare quality, which is, the love of making. They want to make things, they just want to have things grow’ (Campbell-Hunt and Finlay, 2002).
  7. The film industry is one where there can be long gaps between projects. It is duting this time that keeping the core team busy is critical. Hence, developing smaller streams of revenue such as merchandising is critical as it helps keep the teams busy to tide over this period.

Hence, the success of a studio / artist is not just being good at what they do but has so many non-tangible aspects to it. This insight into Weta’s working, ethos & culture has made my resolve stronger to be in tune with my passions & not let the rut of the rat race of the world around get to me to the point that I lose out on enjoying the journey. Afterall, as Taylor says “You are as good as the environment in which you work & the people you hire”.